The domestic football season may be over, but we have an exciting summer ahead as England prepare for the delayed Euro 2020, and I know many of us will hope that Gareth Southgate’s boys can go all the way to win.
We are fortunate to have rich sporting heritage in this country, and whilst there will be many competitions and tournaments to look forward to over the summer, including the Tokyo Olympics, football often unites people and arouses passions more than any other sport. Watching the game being played in empty or near-empty stadiums over the past year has shown just how important spectators are, and how the atmosphere in the stands can influence events on the pitch.
Whilst I welcome the great efforts that clubs and broadcasters have made to ensure more matches have been available to televised audiences, I know many fans have missed attending in person and it has been pleasing to see some the return of some fans over the last few weeks.
Many supporters were left angry back in April when plans were announced for a breakaway ‘Super League’ in European competition were announced, whereby most of the clubs involved would be able to compete every year regardless of how well they did. This unmeritocratic and financially-motivated move left a bitter taste in the mouth of many and, whilst I cannot condone the law-breaking that took place in some of the protests, I was pleased to see that the English clubs involved took note of the strength of feeling and withdrew from the proposals.
The impact of Covid 19 has had a profound effect on the finances of many football clubs, particularly at the non-league levels of the game, where clubs do not enjoy the revenue from broadcasting or large commercial sponsorship incomes of elite professional sides and are therefore reliant on gate receipts. Thankfully, many have been able to benefit from the support the Government has offered, such as the Sports Winter Survival Package and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and I hope that next season many will be able to bounce back after such a difficult year.
Clubs like Halesowen Town and Cradley Town in our area are often the lifeblood of their communities, and I would encourage football fans across Halesowen & Rowley Regis to consider doing what they can to support our local non-league clubs next season, perhaps attending games when the local professional clubs are away from home, or during an international break.
Finally, I’m sure you will join me in wishing England all the very best for the Euro’s over the coming weeks and, if we don’t win, at least it is not too long to wait this time until the World Cup!
This column first appeared in the Halesowen & Dudley News on 10th June 2021.